Interview: Portraits of Heavily Tattooed People With and Without Clothes On

Alan Powdrill‘s COVERED is an interesting look at tattoo culture and our perceptions of people with body art.

photo-“I love them, they are beautiful and I’ll always feel the same.” – Simon Carruth, 62, London

Photographed over the course of three years, Alan Powdrill‘s COVERED is an interesting look at tattoo culture and our perceptions of people with body art. As tattoos have become increasingly commonplace and mainstream, the old adage “don't judge a book by its cover” is proven to the fullest by Powdrill's images of heavily tattooed people covered up—and stripped down.

By photographing and interviewing 40 people across England, Powdrill challenges us to reconsider our preconceived notions of what tattoos mean. While, there's a long history of tattoos in Britain, introduced into Victorian culture by sailors and members of the military, there can also be stigmas associated with tattoo art. But certainly, over time, what it means to have a tattoo—and who has them—has evolved.

Powdrill, who met COVERED‘s participants through social media, tattoo conventions, and word of mouth, asks each to pose in front of their homes. One image shows the participants fully clothed, while the other depicts them stipped down and proudly showing off their body art. The side by side look at each subject can't help but push viewers to focus on their reactions to the photographs, and reflect internally on why they have such feelings.

Having seen COVERED‘s growth since our initial coverage in 2015, we wanted to catch up with Powdrill and see how the work has evolved. Currently raising funds on Kickstarter for a COVEREDphoto book, there was no better time to sit down for a chat.

You've been working on the project over the course of three years. What’s the biggest takeaway you’ve gotten from your subjects?

Passion, a way of life while still being outsiders.

What’s the reaction been from the people who participated as COVERED becomes more well-known?

Generally, they love it. There’s a certain element of vanity in getting naked in front of a camera when your skin is full of amazing artwork.

Are there any particular tattoos that have stuck out to you?

Izzy Nash always stands out for her Tiger on her back and bum.

Interestingly, you yourself don't have any tattoos. So what spurred this interest in exploring people and their tattoos?

I grew up in a very conservative background and people who had tattoos always seemed rebellious, rock and roll, and a bit left field. Then becoming a photographer I became addicted to all things visual so it’s a perfect combination. If this labor of love project makes it as a book I will get a tattoo, of what I’m not sure yet.

Comments (2)
No. 1-2

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I think these tattoos
are beautiful, but more importantly, the surprise for me was my perceptions of who might or might not have them!